Buying Advice

AutomotiveMap Picks: Best Off-Roading Vehicles for Families

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

There are some SUVs that are great for carrying a large amount of cargo. Others that you can practically fit your entire extended family into. Some are great for easing down the road in style. The trucks and SUVs that made this list are proficient off-roaders that are also great for families.

To find the best ones, AutomotiveMap's writers have spent thousands of hours behind the wheel, in what some (those of us that like to get vehicles muddy and don't mind jostling around) may call "ideal circumstances". Here are our picks.

​2020 Subaru Outback

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Jesus Garcia: The redesigned 2020 Subaru Outback is an all-wheel drive wagon that can do everything an off-road crossover can without looking like one. It serves as a great off-road adventure vehicle and alternative to anyone looking to avoid buying CUV.

​2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Nicole Wakelin: The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is comfortable with room for the family and their stuff during the week and the capability to have fun on the weekends.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Harvey Briggs: Room for five, legendary jeep capability, and I can bring my dirt bikes with me? Sounds like my kind of family off-road adventure. The 2020 Jeep Gladiator is an easy choice for off-roading families.

2020 Jeep Wrangler

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Sue Mead: The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is a true off-road chops with iconic styling and 4WD hardware. It's also a modern-day road ride. The Rubicon model is available for extreme adventurers, but other trim levels can handle some pretty extreme off-roading. The new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine has better fuel economy than the previous edition and potent torque.

Perry Stern, AutoNXT: The Wrangler is unmatched for off-road prowess, and the Unlimited offers room for the whole family with added thrill of removing the roof and doors.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Eileen Falkenberg-Hull: Families deserve to go off-roading in style and the Cullinan is up to the task. I drove a version of the half-million dollar car up the face of Snow King Mountain and on the bumpy dirt roads of Grand Teton National Park during a full day of testing and was suitably impressed. Plus, it's the only Rolls-Royce model that seats five.

Ford has confirmed details about the forthcoming Bronco debut.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The day we knew would arrive is almost here. Reporting by Automotive News from the NADA Show has revealed when we can expect to see the 2021 Ford Bronco and a host of other details enthusiasts will want to know about.

First things first. The 2021 Ford Bronco will officially be revealed in March. This is likely to happen at a private event that will stream live on Ford's social channels similar to how the 2020 Ford Explorer was revealed. The public will likely not be able to get close and personal with the SUV until the New York Auto Show in mid-April.

2021 Ford Bronco Sport In 2018, Ford teased that a junior version of the Bronco was coming.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Speaking of the New York Auto Show, that's when we'll likely see the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport, a smaller variant of the Bronco that's about the same size as the 2020 Ford Escape.

Like the 2020 Land Rover Defender, the Bronco will come in two- and four-door variants. Those doors, as well as the SUV's hardtop roof, will be removable and are designed to store inside the Bronco's cargo area.

Late last year, AutomotiveMap captured the sound of the Bronco's powertrain in action.

The Bronco Sport is likely to go on sale this year with the Bronco following in 2021. Ford dealers will likely accept pre-sale orders of the vehicle so it could be a while before shoppers see one languishing on dealership lots. The SUV will be sold at every Ford dealership in the U.S.

In an effort to keep buyers from heading straight from the dealership to the aftermarket shop, Ford will roll out a long list of accessories at the same time as the models. This fits in with a growing trend amongst automakers and something Ford has seen success with in Ranger and Explorer model rollouts. Automotive News reports that dealerships were told that accessories will be available at launch.

The debut of the Bronco and Bronco Sport comes at a time when Ford is on a roll revealing desirable new product. In the last two years there have been redesigned Escape, Explorer, and Expedition models arrive on dealership lots. The Ranger and Mustang Mach-E have debuted. Ford has recently refreshed the Super Duty, GT, and Mustang, and brought the EcoSport to the U.S.

The company recently announced the FordPass Charging Network in support of future electric vehicle charging and expanded the model lineup to include new trim levels and packages for some of its best-selling products like the Expedition, Explorer, Ranger, and F-Series.

The Hyundai Nexo is noted for its well-designed headlights.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced its results from the latest round of testing. Five vehicles came out on top earning the highest headlight score across all trim levels.

How does IIHS test? According to their website:

IIHS engineers measure the reach of a vehicle's headlights as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Sensors on the track measure how far from the vehicle the light extends with an intensity of at least 5 lux. A lux is a unit of illuminance, or the amount of light falling on a surface. For comparison, a full moon on a cloudless night illuminates the ground below to about 1 lux.

Both low beams and high beams are measured on five approaches, shown in the graphic below:
- Straightaway
- Gradual left curve (800-foot radius)
- Gradual right curve (800-foot radius)
- Sharp left curve (500-foot radius)
- Sharp right curve (500-foot radius)

On each approach, visibility measurements are taken on the right edge of the roadway. On the curves, measurements also are taken on the left edge of the travel lane. On the straightaway, the second measurement is taken at a point corresponding to the left edge of a two-lane road. This allows the engineers to gauge the illumination on both the right and left side of a straightaway, which are typically quite different. With most headlights, there is a steep drop-off in light on the left side of a straight road in order to prevent glare to oncoming vehicles.

Glare for oncoming vehicles is also measured from low beams in each scenario. Engineers record the percentage by which it exceeds a set threshold.

Headlights are tested as received from the dealer. Although many headlight problems could be resolved by adjusting the aim of the lamps, IIHS doesn't change headlight aim. Few vehicle owners adjust the vertical aim of their headlights, so leaving the aim the way it was set at the factory makes the testing more realistic. Horizontal aim also is important, but in most vehicles it can't be changed after the initial factory setting.

Readings are taken 10 inches from the ground for visibility and 3 feet, 7 inches from the ground for glare.

IIHS testers use a system of demerits to rate the headlights. Low beams are weighted more heavily than high beams. Straighway readings are weighted more heavily than curved ratings because crashes happen most often on straight roads. Vehicles equipped with high-beam assist get their low beam demerits reduced.

All the vehicles on this list earned a perfect "Good" score in IIHS headlight testing across all trim levels.

2020 Honda Insight

2020 Honda Insight

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

The 2020 Honda Insight comes standard with multi-element LED headlights. The Insight starts at $22,930.

Hyundai Nexo

2020 Hyundai Nexo

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2020 Hyundai Nexo comes standard with LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights. Automatic headlights are also standard. Hyundai prices the Nexo starting at $58,735.

Lexus NX

2019 Lexus NX

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Lexus has equipped the 2020 Lexus NX with standard automatic headlights. Premium triple-beam LED headlights and enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn indicators are available. The Lexus NX starts at $36,870.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America

The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid comes standard with LED steering responsive headlights and LED fog lights. The Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $35,145.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

The Tesla Model 3 starts at $39,990 and comes standard with LED headlights and taillights. Automatic high beams are standard and fog lights are available.